In a fast-growing city like Charlotte (N.C.), many factors can contribute to rising crime rates. There is, however, a common driver that has been identified… individuals who know each other settling disputes with gunfire. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) has numerous crime reduction strategies in place including their launch of a Crisis Intervention Team and Community Policing Crisis Response Team but they also value partnerships across the community that join them in efforts to help keep the city safe. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations is a very strong partner in this work and offers comprehensive conflict resolution training to the community. Putting an emphasis on teaching people how to resolve conflict without violence could have a significant impact on issues Charlotte is experiencing. It is critical that conflict resolution be offered to both youth and adults which is why Community Relations has also partnered with schools to offer peer mediation programs. Continue Reading
As our communities grow and become more diverse, local government agencies are combining new and tested techniques to engage their residents. In the traditional model of community engagement, agencies relied on public meetings to get feedback from residents. While this can still be an effective means of engagement for some populations, many residents are missed in the process. Similarly, as governments have embraced new technology to bridge the gap, there is still no substitute for face-to-face interactions.
So what is the next step? How do you reach as many residents as possible in a meaningful way? Continue Reading
Earlier this year, the City of Charlotte’s Communications & Marketing (CC&M) department developed a creative social media campaign to engage the city’s digital following and better understand the topics that are important to Charlotte residents.
As the spotlight on community engagement continues to increase, there is often a simple factor that can be easily overlooked…asking the community what they want to know and how they want to be engaged.
Charlotte is proudly known as the Queen City so it was fitting that the campaign be called The Queen’s 2017 with #TakeTheReign serving as the call-to-action. The CC&M team recognized that 2017 was an important year for the Queen City and that the community needed to have a hand in telling her story.
With an active presence of over 140,000 Twitter followers and nearly 9,800 followers on Facebook, the city knew it had an audience that could be tapped into in a different way. While the main goal was to encourage these followers to stay connected to local government and their communities, the feedback received would also help shape how the city’s story is shared.
We may feel comfortable in a nice park, or a city plaza, but does this really affect our “community engagement?”
The Center for Active Design (CfAD) offers a study that says “yes.”
CfAD states that their Assembly Civic Engagement Survey is the first study to examine specific community design features that influence civic life, using large-sample survey methods and visual experiments.
Their innovative study of 5,000 people nationwide inquired about respondents’ civic perceptions and behaviors, as well as design elements and maintenance conditions within their communities. Here is what they found. Continue Reading
On a Monday night in late September 2016, community members filled the Charlotte City Council Chambers to capacity. One by one, they expressed fear, anger and frustration about the officer-involved shooting of Keith Lamont Scott and the state of the community. The response to what was heard both in the Chambers and during days of protests would prove to be a defining moment for the city.
Charlotte’s West End is among the oldest and most culturally rich areas of the city. With neighborhoods dating back to the late 1800’s, this area has served as a hub for the African-American community for generations. From long standing community service organizations to educational institutions such as Johnson C. Smith University to more than 330 acres of greenspace, there is a strong community built on Charlotte’s west side and many people invested in its future.
Collaboration with neighborhood leaders is an instrumental component to the success of engagement initiatives for local government. The partnership, sharing of ideas and exchange of knowledge can lead to lasting benefits for the community. The City of Charlotte’s Neighborhood & Business Services (N&BS) department has spent over a decade building programs to help communities thrive through engagement, trainings, board retreats and awards.
The Neighborhood Leadership Awards only recognizes superior work in Charlotte communities, particularly those communities that receive assistance through the City’s Neighborhood Matching Grant program for projects such as community gardens, neighborhood watches or playgrounds.
However, the program is part of comprehensive approach to impact neighborhoods several other components such a semiannual board retreats for communities. Continue Reading
Recently, I had an opportunity to sit down with Willie Ratchford, executive director of Community Relations for the City of Charlotte. Willie just celebrated 40 years working with the city, and I wanted to get his perspective on how community relations and engagement have changed throughout the years. I was also curious to get his take on the current role of local government considering the drastically different community landscape.
When Willie started with the city, the year was 1975. During that year Microsoft was founded, “Saturday Night Live” premiered, the Thrilla in Manila took place and the blockbuster hit “Jaws” was filmed on Martha’s Vineyard. We may have social media and 3D video games today, but one of the most popular (and odd) gifts for kids during the holiday season in that year was the Pet Rock. So yes, times have changed. Significantly.
Willie has seen a lot throughout his life and career – from the desegregation of schools to his involvement in the administration of Charlotte’s fair housing law in 1988. In 1994, Willie became the executive director of Community Relations. He felt that this role was a defining moment in his career because he had the opportunity to impact race relations in Charlotte. He firmly believes that it is the responsibility of local government to promote community harmony. Continue Reading
It’s a great thing when community engagement is a primary focus of many organizations. However, the challenge for some may be changing the engagement status quo into what it can be in the future. With the abundance of tools available and the desire to do more engagement, there is an opportunity for creativity and innovation. So, how does this all come together to build something that can impact not only a community but those in public service as well?
For local government, employees at all levels across an entire organization can play a key role in developing new ways to engage the public. Four city of Charlotte employees were recently selected as finalists in the Knight Cities Challenge, a national call for new ideas that would make communities a better place to live and work. Two of the employee ideas focused on engaging the community in a very unique way.
The employees are pictured above: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services, Alyssa Dodd – in the left photo, with Carlos Alzate; and Sarah Hazel (holding the “No Barriers” sign).
Alyssa’s idea is centered around city employees taking 10 minutes once a week to have a conversation with a member of the community to discuss how we can make our city a better place to live, work and play. Just think, if every employee did this, we could collectively engage more than 364,000 people a year in one-on-one conversations. These conversations could lead to new relationships being formed with the community and have a lasting impact on the employees who participate. The city could gain new perspectives and fresh ideas from residents. In turn, residents could feel a stronger connection to the city and its employees.